Summer Travel and Another App-O-Rama

As we plan our escape from the upcoming Buenos Aires winter, miles and points once again come to the rescue of our family!

Now that my son is 18 months old, it’s time for him to have his own seat on the plane. (Yes, he can fly as a lap child until 2 years old, but there is no way you want an 18 month old on your lap for an 11 hour flight!) That means we would need 4 coach seats from Argentina to the United States, and a quick check shows that would cost a crazy $5254! And yes, that’s dollars not pesos.

Luckily, we have more than enough miles from credit card signups and other bonuses to get all this travel for free! Here’s what we did…

I first booked flights for my wife, daughter and son at only 40,000 miles each (the reduced rate for the South American off-season). Since I have the Citibank AA Amex card, I get 10% in miles returned to me (up to 10,000 miles per year) immediately after booking. That means that their three tickets only cost 110,000 miles for an amazing value of $.036 per mile.

Hyatt Regency Boston on PointsNext, I booked my ticket on the same flights using 4,400 AA Business Extra miles. I got these points for free in what I consider to be the best offer of 2014. By simply referring people to join the Business Extra program, I received 1,000 points per referral. I referred my wife and four friends and pocketed the maximum 5,000 points. That means this $1400 ticket cost me about 15 minutes of my time! Plus, I still have 600 points left over that I can use for two sets of free AA lounge passes.

With flights handled, I next booked the Hyatt Regency Boston for three nights when we arrive. Since Hyatt has a promotion that gives 20% back in points on all award redemptions, these nights only cost me 36,000 points rather than the normal 45,000 points. The out-of-pocket cost for these nights would have been $1130, so we’re getting a nice $.031 per point there.

Palazzo Vegas on PointsWhile we’re still firming up the rest of our summer travel plans, I couldn’t pass up last week’s IHG 50% off award promotion for their Las Vegas hotels. I quickly snagged five nights at The Palazzo for the 4th of July weekend at 25,000 points per night rather than the normal 50,000 points per night. As there is a 50/50 chance as to whether we actually go or not, I booked each night individually rather than booking it as an entire 5 night stay. That way if we need to adjust the dates, we can cancel the nights we don’t want without cancelling the whole trip and losing out on the promotional rate. The normal rate for this stay would have been $1147, so getting $.009 per IHG point is a great deal.

We still have a trip to NYC to plan, where we’ll either stay at the Intercontinental Times Square or the Hyatt. Having miles and points gives us a lot of options:

  • Two free nights at the Hyatt through their credit card signup offer
  • One free night at the Intercontinental for paying the $95 renewal on the IHG MasterCard
  • Two free nights at the Intercontinental through the IHG Free Nights promotion where I earned 2 free nights and 28,000 miles by staying two nights at a cheaper Holiday Inn for $332. (Not a bad price to pay to convert to the Intercontinental NYC where nightly rates are over $400 per night!)

All this cheap travel is made possible through credit card bonuses, taking advantage of promotional offers, using online shopping portals and some limited manufactured spending. I’ve written about app-o-ramas before, and my last one was this past November where I applied for the following cards on the same day:

  • American Express Gold – limited time 75,000 bonus point offer
  • Chase Hyatt – 2 free nights at any Hyatt
  • Barclay US Airways MasterCard – 50,000 US Airways miles offer (soon to convert to American Airlines miles)
  • Discover Card – $150 back after spending $750 in three months and to take advantage of 5% spending bonuses

I even managed to get my Argentine wife into the credit card game after working to establish credit for her. Now she can take part in future app-o-ramas as well and we can earn even more points together.

It takes some planning, but with a little bit of time and taking advantage of promotions, you can easily get big travel for little money. For our family, this makes all the difference in the world.